UPLAND WATERSHED AND FOREST HEALTH
As a core member of the Klamath-Lake Forest Health Partnership (KLFHP), the Klamath Watershed Partnership promotes landscape resiliency, wildfire risk reduction, and improved emergency fire response. Currently these efforts are directed in three areas: 1) the Chiloquin Community Forest and Fire Project, 2) the Southeast Cascades Landscape Forest Resiliency Planning Project, and 3) juniper removal in the Gerber area.
Chiloquin Community Forest and Fire Project
Fire suppression and past forest practices in and around Chiloquin, Oregon, have altered forest structure and watershed function. Increased stand density and
understory growth have reduced vegetation vigor and diversity, leaving entire landscapes vulnerable to drought, catastrophic wildfire, or other disturbances such as insects or disease. Changes in precipitation infiltration, water storage, and riparian condition have altered the hydrologic regime and water quality, altering habitat conditions and availability for threatened and endangered species such as the Oregon spotted frog, shortnose sucker, Lost River sucker, bull trout, and northern spotted owl. Forest restoration to historical conditions will restore and protect conservation values.
The Chiloquin Community Forest and Fire Project (CCFFP) will restore forest health and resiliency across 184,370 acres of private and federal U.S. Forest Service (USFS) land by engaging the community and implementing phased treatment of overstocked dry-type forests. The area is identified as a high-risk for wildland fire in the Chiloquin Community and Klamath County Wildfire Protection Plans. Vegetation and wildfire risk mapping has been completed for all of the private land, and crosswalks have been used to identify treatments for each stand.
Outreach and education to 2,841 private landowners began with mailings and workshops in 2017, and will continue throughout the project to build a stakeholder base necessary for landscape implementation and long-term maintenance. Conservation practices that will be used to restore forest health and wildlife habitat include: brush management, fuel breaks, forest slash treatment, forest stand improvement (thinning), and tree/shrub pruning. KWP participated in a 2018 Oregon State University publication documenting this approach to landscape level restoration - Planning and Implementing Cross-boundary, Landscape-scale Restoration and Wildfire Risk Reduction Projects.
Klamath Watershed Partnership, through a grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, began forest health and wildfire resiliency projects across 537 acres of private land (8 landowners) in Fall 2019. Additional benefits of this work include aspen and meadow enhancement and harvest of burned timber.
Key partners include the USFS, Oregon State University Extension, Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and governmental and non-governmental members of the Klamath-Lake Forest Health Partnership (KLFHP).
Southeast Cascades Landscape Forest Planning Project
The Southeastern Cascades Landscape Forest Planning Project (SCLFPP) has been identified by the KLFHP as the next priority landscape for cross-boundary work based on opportunities for collaboration with planned and existing projects on Federal land and encompasses nearly 197,000 acres in western Klamath County. The project incorporates 131,870 acres of Federal land under the USFS and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and 27,777 acres of State land, primarily associated with Sun Pass State Forest. Private lands totaling 37,134 acres (21,000 non-industrial) are interwoven with state and federal forested lands throughout the region, with a high degree of wildland urban interface. Prior to the project there was no comprehensive mapping or resource inventory to promote or facilitate cross-boundary, landscape-scale efforts.
Wildfire does not recognize property boundaries, but there is currently no comprehensive inventory of forest resources for private land in the project area to promote or facilitate management in step with Federal efforts. This project will conduct the necessary outreach and education of landowners across 21,000 acres of non-industrial private land to encourage forest stewardship and engagement in the larger effort. Remote sensing, combined with ground verification and data collection, will be conducted to provide the necessary resolution to understand the scope and scale of restoration needs on private land. Documented techniques for developing treatment recommendations and prioritizations will then be used, setting the private lands up for future forest management plan development and acquisition of implementation funding.
Project partners are members of the KLFHP, including the USFS, BLM, ODF, NRCS, Oregon State University Extension, and Klamath Watershed Partnership. Additional partners to be engaged through this project include local fire districts and private landowners.
PRIVATE LANDS MAPPING AND INVENTORY
KWP provided technical assistance, funding, and coordination support for vegetation and wildfire risk assessments and mapping across 32,000 acres of private land.
Gerber Juniper Removal
Over the past 100 years, fire suppression and livestock management in the Gerber area have resulted in overstocked forests and juniper encroaching into areas historically dominated by grasses and shrubs. Throughout the Upper Lost River Watershed these changes have impacted watershed health through altered nutrient and water cycling and availability, diminished ecosystem diversity, and increased vulnerability to disease, insects, wildfire, and competition. Woody biomass removal in overstocked/ encroachment areas restores species diversity, improves stand resiliency, decreases wildfire potential, improves wildlife and range forage quality and quantity, and increases water yield.
The Gerber Watershed Enhancement Project will leverage outreach and planning by the NRCS, Klamath Soil and Water Conservation District (KSWCD), KWP, and ODF to reduce overstocked forests and western juniper density on 3,264 acres of private lands. This private lands work will complement more than 60,000 acres of juniper clearing and other forest thinning on public land by the Bureau of Land Management and USFS in the region during the last 20 years. By increasing the connectivity of treated areas, management is more sustainable and effective. Corridors spanning ownership boundaries will enhance habitat available to sagebrush-steppe species, including the Interstate population of mule deer that can use this area year-round. This project is the result of collaborative efforts among KWP, KSWCD, private landowners, NRCS, BLM, US Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, ODF, and other state and federal agencies working toward a common vision of improved watershed health.
Noxious Weed Mitigation
The bare soil conditions created by high intensity wildfires are easily colonized by invasive plants that can take advantage of the lack of competition from native plants and poor growing conditions. Invasive plants can be classified as noxious weeds by states and counties if they cause economic and/or environmental damage. This designation requires treatments to eradicate or prevent the spread of noxious weeds by private landowners as well as local, state, and federal governments. It is often easier to prevent their establishment or limit their spread than to treat an area once it has become overtaken by noxious weeds.
Because of this, treating the footprint of the Bootleg Fire to prevent the establishment and spread of noxious weeds was a high priority immediately after the fire. With funding from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) KWP hired contractors to survey noxious weeds on Green Diamond Resource Company (GDRC) lands within the footprint of the fire and identified 17 priority areas for treatment based on areas likely to have high transmission of seed if noxious weeds were allowed to establish. 1,821 gross acres and 24 net acres were treated with targeted species including musk thistle, Canada thistle, oxeye daisy, spotted knapweed, and St. John's wort. Ongoing work includes the mapping of invasive grasses which we will be seeking additional funding to treat.
Partners on this project include GDRC, USFS, ODA, Wilson Herbicide, and Klamath County.